In several of my blog posts, I have mentioned that we get wonderful organic produce, free-range non-factory meat and poultry, herbs and spices, alcohol, even kitchen supplies and apparel through our neighborhood food buying club. I have had many people ask me what this club is and how it works. I thought I would take a brief moment today to write a few words on the subject.
First, let us begin with a basic definition. A food buying club is, in short, a group of neighbors who put their buying power together to purchase food wholesale. They then volunteer their time to receive, sort and distribute the items. This allows us to purchase the highest quality food at reasonable prices.
In our club, we are fortunate enough to have a neighbor who has a shop building behind their house that we use to receive and distribute product. That gives us one main central location to pick up our orders. Still, every now and then someone will receive an order at a different location. It's no real problem as we are all pretty much in the same neighborhood.
To give you an example of how the process works, let's take a look at an average produce order. It begins by determining what is available from our supplier and making this information known to the group. My wife has worked to set up a database where people can just go online and fill in the order sheet with how much they want of each item. Sometimes, there won't be enough people ordering a particular item to fill a case and so we won't get that item. Once everyone has their order in, we figure out what we'll be ordering from the supplier, collect approximate payments, and send the order in. We get a produce shipment every other Friday. On the day of delivery, a few of us meet up at "the shop" and divide up the order. Because people usually pay ahead of time and we never know the exact cost until the order is divided, we have to 'guess-timate' the amounts. We keep careful records and everyone knows how much they owe or how much credit they might have.
It's really that simple! Sure, there's a little work involved but it's worth it! The organic produce we get is cheaper than the supermarket and honestly looks way better than the non-organic produce available through the local chain stores. Our turkeys have real dark meat because they're free-range, not kept in cages. The food is spectacular!
This is the primary benefit of food buying clubs - fresh, wholesome, high-quality food. There are other benefits as well. Like community. These days, we Americans are absolutely horrid when it comes to getting to know our neighbors. More and more, we keep to ourselves, shunning those who live closest to us, those who we encounter frequently in our communities. My wife and I have gotten to know more of our neighbors through the food buying club than through any other means. We also have the satisfaction of knowing that most of what we buy comes from local suppliers and farms. We do less business with the big chains markets and we're much happier!
Food buying co-ops like the one in our neighborhood have been operating around the country for years. There were a couple of instances where government and law enforcement raids have taken place, mostly dealing with the sale of raw dairy items. If you start a neighborhood food club in your area, it is wise to check state laws as to what is regulated and what isn't.
If you are interested in starting your own food club, here are some sources that you might consider. First, I would check with the United Buying Clubs website to see if there might already be a food buying club near you. This website has a great deal of helpful information to help get you started. The Veg Family website also has a helpful page on food co-ops. Of course, you may also contact me if you have any questions and I'd be happy to help you in any way I can!